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While interviewing for jobs, I found some employers which were not willing to share their salary range for a position I was interviewing for. When I asked them: "What is the salary range for this position?" they would usually say: "That depends on the seniority level the person displays through the interview.". A response I haven't tried yet, but could is: "Assume I'm a mid level developer. What is the salary range for mid-level developers?".

I don't really understand why some employers won't share the amount of money they will pay for a position. I mean, I do know it to some degree: they want to pick the "best bang for the buck" candidate and so they ask all candidates that question. Honestly, I think this is manipulative towards the candidates and is dishonest, provided that employers do know how much money they are willing to pay (which I think they do, unless they are extremely disorganized, which is a red flag).

How can I get the employer to tell me their salary range for a position?

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    @ThorbjørnRavnAndersen: You don't know the underpaying madness that's going around. It shouldn't have infested engineering positions, but low-level positions have hidden pay ranges that are almost always way too low. So some people just won't take the interview rather than get baited.
    – Joshua
    Jun 25, 2023 at 0:55
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    @Joshua The idea was that if OP could not see any advantage in taking the interview, then there is no reason to do so. Jun 25, 2023 at 11:00
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    A country tag could help, since disclosing the salary range is legally required in some places.
    – blues
    Jun 26, 2023 at 8:38
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    If you're in the US, the state you'd be working from is relevant—employers are required to disclose pay ranges in several states as of 2023.
    – Milo P
    Jun 26, 2023 at 16:03
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    @Joshua: The point remains that assuming that when a pay range is not provided, it therefore exists and is intentionally hidden is not a correct conclusion (it's one of several possible reasons why a pay range is not being provided. At the very least, this is a very important frame to put around your observation about the endemic issue, as it will otherwise drive people towards making incorrect assumptions in general.
    – Flater
    Jun 26, 2023 at 23:50

9 Answers 9

90

Despite the massive cynicism displayed in other answers, walking away from employers who won't disclose salary is going to mean you walk away from some potentially lucrative and interesting jobs. Now if you are in the position of always having multiple offers to choose from then sure, walk away from ones who won't give you a salary range up front. But for most of us that's not a smart strategy. I've worked for a few companies that didn't give salary numbers but paid over market rates.

Here is why:

  • Lots of companies really are looking for developers at any level. They genuinely are prepared to make you an offer at any level from very junior to very senior depending on the skills you show. Any range they quote would be too wide to be helpful.
  • Some companies don't have fixed ranges and any salary is theoretically negotiable.
  • Technical interviewers don't know salary ranges and so can't tell you what it is. HR don't know what level you are going to end up at and so can't tell you.
  • Just like you, some companies subscribe to the "first person to say a number loses" theory of negotiation. They would rather you stated your salary requirements. Walking away from a company using a particular negotiating strategy (one which you may be using) is shortsighted.
  • There are unfortunately some people who entirely define themselves by competition with their peers. Those people, if told they are going to be paid $62K (market rate) will be quite happy. But if told that the range for their position is $60-70K will reject $62K because it's at the bottom of the range. Even if the range includes people with way more experience than them.

Unless you are trying to decide which of your many interviews to pursue, failure to get a range shouldn't be a problem. If you know your worth, you won't accept lowball offers when they come, so you've lost little by going ahead with the interview. And sometimes these interviews yield good jobs.

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There’s only really 3 options.

#1 Accept it and continue with the interview process anyway.

#2 Give your own salary range and see if they say it’s too high. Not really recommended because you’re giving away valuable negotiation leverage for not much in return.

#3 Tell them that you don’t want to waste yours or anyone else’s time. So you don’t participate in interviews without doing at least a high-level check upfront that you have compatible ranges you’re aiming at.

This only works if you are, in fact, willing to walk away from the process.

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    When you're looking for a change while already employed, not wasting your time is essential. #3 is the strategy I applied last time I was, with good results: once I made it clear that they wouldn't get even my phone number without a complete description of the offer, most recruiters revealed their salary range, and only 2 out of ~30 decided that they'd rather lose me as a candidate. So yeah, maybe I missed 2 well-paid offers, but boy did I save a LOT of time not pursuing another 20+ offers with salary ranges that didn't match my expectations -- time that was well spent on the ones that did.
    – walen
    Jun 26, 2023 at 7:13
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In the body of your post, you ask:

How can I get the employer to tell me their salary range for a position?

But the title asks a different question:

What to do when the employer doesn't want to share the salary range for a position?

As an answer to the latter: the employer is not always the only place to get this information. Third-party sites like Glassdoor sometimes provide estimated salaries, although the accuracy of those estimates is variable; see here and here for some discussion on that. In general, they're more likely to be accurate for large, US-based businesses with standardised position descriptions and titles.

Depending on location, this information might also be available in public records. For example, in Australia many employers have a formal Enterprise Agreement which sets out pay and conditions, usually for a three-year period. This can often be found via the Fair Work Australia website, and it gives not just the headline salary but the full detail of leave entitlements, job-specific allowances, and so on, along with any future salary increases that have already been agreed on.

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You are looking for a job, but it doesn’t have to be this job. So you give your own salary band. Obviously to anyone with a brain is that if they offer you the low number, you will try very hard to find something better, and will only accept as a last resort. And if they offer the high number you start immediately. And everything in between, you will check the market and decide accordingly.

It should also be obvious that the higher their offer, the more likely you are to stay longer. If they don’t understand this, you’ll have to start elsewhere.

So your low number should be just acceptable and the highest should make you very happy.

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Why do you care what their salary range is? What matters is what they offer you, and you won't find that out until the offer is made.

The only advantage of asking would be if you could screen out low-paying companies/positions before interviewing ... and as others have noted, if you insist on an answer that early and they refuse you may reject companies that would make you a good offer on exactly the kind of job you want. That strikes me as a self-destructive action, but it's up to you to decide how much you hate interviewing.

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If they are not willing to share the salary, you can safely assume that it's pathetically low and move on to more serious job offers.

The only alternative is some extreme form of mind games based on not knowing how to manage, which honestly unless you are desperate, move on.

There's nothing you can do to force someone to share that information, and even if you did, there's absolutely nothing you can do to ensure you will be offered anything like that if it comes to it.

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Two approaches;

  1. If they won't answer, take the first interview as a 'training' interview, to get you practice in taking interviews.

  2. When they refuse to answer, ask them at what point WILL the salary be disclosed, and what is the structure of the interview process. If they tell you that they'll make an offer or not after one or two interviews, that's fine; it's not a big waste of your time. If they say that it's a three month process, with six interviews, then that is a massive red flag, and I'd recommend that you walk.

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Seen this many times!

Ask them to be forthcoming with the information!

Companies that are not upfront with their rate of pay, will be always on the low end of the pay scale.

Such companies may also have a high turn over of employees due to such policies.

Seen this many times.

Legislation in some areas (countries) now demand that companies to be upfront with such information to potential employees.

In the end you have the right to know, even if they refuse to divulge the pay rate.

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  • @DJClayworth Aren’t levels at google and associated salary levels basically public knowledge?
    – Kaz
    Jun 24, 2023 at 12:14
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    Welcome to the Workplace Ken, please note that we reserve the answer space for answers to the question that was asked, not tangents or anecdotes. Please consider editing your answer to focus on the question asked. Answers don't address the question may be deleted.
    – Lilienthal
    Jun 27, 2023 at 0:06
-6

Here's my response when you encounter this sort of situation:

"Thank you for your time - I am no longer interested in this opportunity"

Get up, shake their hand(s) and leave.

Don't waste your time with companies like this, nothing good ever comes of it. If they are paying market rates or a competitive salary, they would say it. If they are trying to get a Ferrari at Ford prices, then they would want to keep quiet about it.

Suffice to say, what I think the scenario is.

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    While I agree it can be very frustration for the first mention of compensation to be in an offer letter, I have gotten (and several times accepted) some excellent offers from organizations who did not want to talk money up front. Essentially, I don't think it's accurate to assert that all companies who delay talking about salary are trying to lowball candidates. Jun 24, 2023 at 8:40
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    @ToddWilcox I think an organization has no choice but to signal money somehow. They can decline to answer that question but still signal they are prepared to offer excellent compensation; or they can decline to answer that question and signal they are not interested in offering competitive salaries. They can not decline to signal.
    – emory
    Jun 24, 2023 at 14:47
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    @ToddWilcox, (1), did you gain any insight into why they weren't willing to talk money up front? (2), did you have any other form of information about each organisation's likely intentions, such as a reputation that preceded them? (3), was the "excellent" offer well above some clearly defined market rate of which you were aware (i.e. can we control for you just having low expectations)?
    – Steve
    Jun 24, 2023 at 15:33

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